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Accounting Fraud

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February 19, 2020

Diageo plc will pay $5 million to resolve SEC charges that the alcohol producer's North American subsidiary, Diageo North America, engaged in channel-stuffing by pressuring distributors to buy products in excess of demand in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions. Diageo failed to disclose the trends that resulted from shipping products in excess of demand, the positive impact the overshipping had on sales and profits, and the negative impact that the unnecessary increase in inventory would have on future growth. SEC

Top Ten SEC and CFTC Recoveries of 2019

Posted  01/24/20
Silver Whistle Hanging
2019 was another busy year for the SEC and CFTC.  Once again, the SEC netted hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and fines from companies and individuals accused of defrauding investors, breaching fiduciary duties, and violating the securities laws.  And that’s in addition to the SEC’s robust FCPA enforcement in 2019.  Meanwhile, the CFTC continued to root out market manipulators and other fraudsters...

January 7, 2020

After self-disclosing to the government about grant accounting errors in 2011, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has agreed to pay back $4.5 million in excess funds received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The errors had been in effect between two different periods, from 2007 to 2011 and from 2014 to 2017, and had caused the University to inadvertently charge salary costs to grants after the grant terms had ended.  USAO MDNC

December 18, 2019

MetLife, Inc. has agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges of violating internal accounting control provisions of federal securities laws.  Of the two errors that resulted from these violations, one ran for 25 years and involved the improper release of reserves for annuitants presumed dead after minimal attempts to make contact.  A second error involved the overstating of reserves and understating of income related to a subsidiary's variable annuity guarantees.  In 2017, Metlife increased reserves by $510 million to correct the first error, and reduced reserves by $896 million to correct the second.  SEC

December 5, 2019

Brand management company Iconix Brand Group Inc. and former top executives have agreed to settle SEC fraud charges by agreeing to pay at least $5.5 million.  The complaint against Iconix, former CEO Neil Cole, former COO Seth Horowitz, and former CFO Warren Clamen alleged that the executives profited off a fraudulent scheme that created fictitious revenue and concealed the company’s lackluster earnings, while Iconix failed to recognize false revenue and made false statements to the SEC.  Horowitz and Clamen have agreed to settle, while the charges against Cole remain pending.  SEC

October 30, 2019

Outcome Health, the trade name for ContextMedia LLC, will pay $70 million and enter into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. to resolve allegations that the company, which sells digital advertising to be displayed in medical offices -- its primary customers are pharmaceutical companies -- fraudulently sold advertising inventory that it did not have.  To conceal this, Outcome and its executives falsified reports to customers, claiming to have delivered advertising to the contracted number of screens, and inflated patient engagement metrics.  This fraudulent activity resulted in an overstatement of Outcome's reported revenue, and Outcome used those fraudulent financial statements to obtain almost $1 billion in debt and equity financing in 2015 and 2016.   DOJ

September 27, 2019

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Mylan N.V. has agreed to pay $30 million to resolve SEC charges that the company failed to disclose or adequately accrue for possible losses arising from a DOJ investigation into Mylan's classification, pricing, and rebate practices regarding its EpiPen product.  In 2017, Mylan agreed to pay $465 million to resolve that DOJ investigation.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and its U.S. subsidiary FCA US LLC will pay $40 million to resolve SEC allegations that the automaker provided false and misleading information in press releases and regulatory filings about its monthly new vehicle sales and vehicle sales growth rate.  The SEC found that FCA US inflated new vehicle sales by paying dealers to report fake vehicle sales, but then failing to report those sales at the time.  Instead, Fiat Chrysler kept these sales in a separate database referred to internally as the "cookie jar," which the company would then dip into to report as current sales in a slow month.  SEC

September 23, 2019

Nissan, its former CEO Carlos Ghosn, and former director Greg Kelly have settled fraud charges by agreeing to pay a combined $16.1 million to the SEC.  From 2009 to 2018, Ghosn, Kelly, and subordinates at Nissan allegedly misled U.S. investors by concealing more than $90 million in executive compensation from public disclosure.  At the same time, using Ghosn’s authority to set individual compensation levels, including his own, the co-conspirators changed the calculation of Ghosn’s pension allowance to allow for more than $50 million in additional benefits.  To settle charges, Nissan agreed to pay $15 million, Ghosn agreed to pay $1 million, and Kelly agreed to pay $100,000.  SEC

September 23, 2019

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and PwC partner Brandon Sprankle will collectively pay $7.9 million to resolve SEC claims that they violated PCAOB Rule 3525 and SEC Rules of Practice 102(e) in performing non-audit services for 15 different SEC-registered audit clients.  The SEC found that PwC failed to make required disclosures of the non-audit services, denying the clients of information necessary to assess PwC's independence.  In addition, the SEC found that PwC failed to have adequate internal controls to monitor non-audit services for audit clients.  PwC and Sprankle consented to the order without admitting or denying the SEC findings.  SEC
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